Soy Un Perdedor

If there is one thing I have always known about myself, it’s that I’m a terrible loser.

I have zero grace in defeat; it is victory or nothing. No soothing words, no consolation prizes — there is only shame and utter humiliation. It sounds weird to say I enjoy criticizing myself, because I don’t. There is, however, undeniable relief in dutiful self-flagellation — a necessary ritual, I think.

I don’t take failure well, and for years I believed that it was the driving force behind my success. I am afraid of failure, ergo I am motivated to not fail.

But recent events have clearly proven this theory wrong.

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose,” according to esteemed galactic philosopher Jean Luc Picard, and I guess I really should have paid more attention to TNG as a child. A little more Picard, a little less Working Boys could have done wonders for my emotional intelligence.

Oh well.

It isn’t that I’ve never failed. I have, of course. Multiple times. But always there is this belief that I could have succeeded if only I had done things differently. I could have been faster, or better, or smarter.

Clearly it is naivete to assume that I have absolute control over all outcomes. (You can call it narcissism instead, if you’re feeling less generous.)

The problem is that despite all evidence to the contrary, my internal logic operates on the assumption that I am in control.

I have boundless confidence in my abilities; I can do absolutely anything with just hard work and determination. The inverse, unfortunately, is that every failure feels devastatingly personal.

Every stumble, every mistake is the consequence of my weakness, my stupidity. I fail because I am lacking, because I am not enough.

But what I’m realizing now (rather belatedly) is that the universe operates on its own fucked up logic, where you can do everything right and still fail. It’s not always a question of “faster,” or “better,” or “smarter”. There’s just doing what you can and accepting that sometimes, things are out of your hands.

As much as I’d like to be omnipotent, I clearly am not, and so much of my anxiety is tied to this obsession with being in control of everything that goes on in my life. It seems so goddamn stupid, seeing it laid out like this in actual words, but that’s how I’ve lived for the past 30 odd years and change isn’t really my strongest suit.

So I’ve been taking it slow, allowing myself to warm up to the idea that failure happens whether I allow it to or not.

I have to know, despite feeling to the contrary, that losing does not diminish me as a person. I’m still me, just maybe with a couple more bruises than usual.

“It’s okay,” I tell myself.

I’ll believe it eventually.

Then We Came To The End

I know you’re not supposed to take it personally, but there’s no way around it: getting shit-canned makes you feel like garbage. They can get all corporate, sure, use a saccharinely patronizing tone as they regretfully — so much regret, so so much — “let you go”. Doesn’t change the fact that you’re getting kicked to the curb, your 14 years reduced to a cardboard box small enough to fit in your puny white collar arms.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Technically I still have a few months to go before I’m officially unemployed. It’s this awkward limbo that I find most difficult, I think. I know I’m no longer wanted; I have the papers to prove it. And yet here I am, coming in to work like nothing has changed, except everything has, you know?

“To be irreplaceable, one must always be different”, Coco Chanel once famously said. I’m not above quoting literal Nazis when necessary, but how different can an individual be, really?

There’s nothing inherently unique where labor is concerned. Anything I can do, five other people can do better and cheaper.

I harbor no delusions where uniqueness is concerned. I know I’m dispensable; I work in IT.   My job consists of automating tasks, chipping away at the need for manual labor one script at a time.

I would be lying, though, if I said it didn’t hurt. Awareness does jack shit, it turns out. It doesn’t insulate you from the pain of rejection. I’ve always known this day would come; I just didn’t know how devastating it would be.

Now I’m expected to train the people replacing me. “Knowledge transfer”, they call it. Everything you know about this job, they say, distilled into an easily consumable presentation with the documentation to support it. 14 fucking years of my life in one Word document and an hour of PowerPoint. I don’t even know where to begin.

I still haven’t cried. I feel like I should, you know? But I’m terrible with emotions, so instead I’ve been getting increasingly frequent anxiety attacks at the most inopportune times. (Not like there’s ever a good time for one, of course.)

The bottom drops out from under my feet and suddenly I’m 10 again, drowning in a pool in some nameless resort in Laguna. It’s hard to breathe, sometimes.

I know I should be professional about this, put on a brave face and keep playing like the orchestra while the Titanic sinks. I should move on. I should dust my feet off and keep going. I should be strong, I should survive.

Should, should, should, when all I really want right now is to lie down and listen to sad songs and not move for the next thousand years.

I’ll figure it out, eventually. It’s not like I have a choice. The world keeps spinning and I either spin along or find myself thrown off the fucking ride.

Not today, though. Just not today.

Title stolen shamelessly from Joshua Ferris, which I wrote about here.

In Which I Say God Save Me, Because I Just Discovered Steve McQueen

Yes, yes, obviously I’ve heard of Steve McQueen.

It’s just that I’ve always assumed that he was some sort of fashion designer, like Marc Jacobs or Michael Kors.

And then Cars came out, and someone told me Lightning McQueen was named for him, because he was cool and loved to race cars. Okay. Filed him under “someone similar to Paul Newman” and that was it.

I wasn’t a big fan of American TV shows and movies when I was growing up. My parents were crazy for Shaw Brothers action flicks; eventually we rented nothing but Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies from the neighborhood betamax rental place. I graduated to Mark Gor and got far too enamored with triad films.

The only American actor I knew in my younger years — apart from my beloved Adam West and Burt Ward — was Charlton Heston, aka that dude who made television unwatchable during Holy Week.

[Quick story: Burt Ward was my first crush. The first one I can actually remember, I mean. For at least a year, I was convinced that Ringo Starr’s You’re Sixteen was our theme song. Eww, I know. Sorry. I was eight.]

I think I was in fifth grade already when I started paying attention to American TV and movies. I watched whatever my older cousins watched, like Star Trek (the one with Patrick Stewart, not Shatner). It wasn’t until Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I was really into it, though.

[Let’s keep the “I’m an idiot” theme alive, shall we? Second quick story: for a very long time I was convinced that Data from Star Trek was called Liberace. Like that’s his name, instead of Data. I have no idea why I believed this. And I didn’t find out about my mistake until I was 28 fucking years old. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.]

So it’s not like I ever had a chance to like Westerns, you know?

No one in my family was interested in cowboys. Chow Yun Fat’s Mark Gor was the gunslinger of my young life; why would I even need to watch foreign films to get my bang bang fix?

More importantly, my first brush with a Western was dismal. Horrifying. Traumatic.

I’m talking about Back to the Future 3.

I loved the first movie. I loved it so so so much. These days, I still stop to watch whenever I chance upon it on TV.

But that third movie? Ugh. No. Never.

And so it wrecked cowboys for me.

Until I watched Justified.

I refuse to shut up about this show, because no one I know offline has seen it and I am pissed and I want to talk to people about Boyd Crowder and Raylan Givens and how they should run away and just live happily ever after together. Preferably still shooting people from time to time, of course. (I also want to talk about Tim Gutterson, but that’s a different matter altogether. Hormones are involved.)

That said, I suppose I should mention Firefly first. I didn’t even realize it then, because I’m that dense. I was so focused on the futuristic/space age portion that I flat out didn’t think of the fact that Mal is a space cowboy. (And I’m a space cadet, as it turns out.)

It says that right on the tin, and I ignored it.

That’s when I decided that I actually like Westerns. I like the sassy heroes. I like the smarmy villains. I like the murky gray area of morality they all tread. Best of all, I like how they just shoot everything and everyone in sight. (Also, my favorite triad movie forever, Exiled, is pretty much a classic Western set in Macau.)

So I decided that it was time to rectify my mistakes. It was time for re-education.

I went on Netflix and watched The Magnificent Seven.

And that’s how it happened.

In the first few scenes of the movie I was like, okay, that’s the King and I guy. And then Steve McQueen comes onscreen and acts all sassy and cool and… well… maybe this gif does the explaining better:


[Note: I’ve seen Seven Samurai, but it’s not my favorite Kurosawa film. I like Ran best.]

I am so smitten with Steve McQueen that it’s threatening to derail my re-education. I was supposed to watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly next, but now I just want to look up all of his movies and watch him out-cool everyone.

My question now is rather odd: am I allowed to fangirl about a dead person? Is that acceptable? Is it not weird to be smitten with someone who is no longer alive?

I’m dead serious about this, guys.

(Heh, dead.)


Valar Morghulis, Robot Jellyfish


This is a drawing my niece made for me, I think maybe five years ago.

It’s one of the few decorative objects in my work cubicle, and despite the rather flimsy material has survived multiple office moves.

In case it isn’t obvious, that’s a robot jellyfish.

I write this because in the last few weeks, people around me have been reminiscing. She was perfect. She was unbelievably well-behaved. She was an angel.

Not that it isn’t true, of course. Sam was really one of the nicest, kindest kids I’ve ever met. She was almost always in an unnaturally good mood.

All well and good, but that’s not all she was.

More than nice, she was intelligent.

She was whip-smart.

She was incredibly witty.

I want to remember her as that — a badass child who thought an already scary sea animal ought to be weaponized and let loose upon the unsuspecting masses.

Please, look at the drawing again.

Look closely.

Look at the motherfucking teeth

Other people can hold on to their remembrance of her as a sweet, beautiful child.

I’d rather cling to my memories of a funny, intelligent, slightly crazy, robot-jellyfish-drawing badass baby girl.

In Which I Greet My Friend Jason On His 30th Birthday

As you may have gleamed from this earlier post, it’s not easy for me to find friends in real life.

It’s tough making real connections when you’re a testy bitch with poor social skills.

I won’t be surprised if you assume that Jason is my imaginary friend.

Except he’s not.

I met Jason maybe more than a decade ago (I can’t remember exactly when). We were both contestants in a college-wide history contest — neither of us won.

Whenever we reminisce about the contest, he insists that we both did great despite neither of us winning; it’s a very generous version of what actually happened. I remember feeling seriously outclassed during the contest. After all, I had no idea what the capital of Burkina Faso was.

(Trivia: it’s Ouagadougou.)

He didn’t walk into the contest venue.

I clearly remember him swaggering in.

I won’t lie and say I liked him immediately. Even from afar I could tell that he was brash, loud, and kind of a blowhard. Not really the sort of guy I’d hang with, you know.

But he was smart.

Oh so very smart.

And if there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s this: I can overlook a lot of things when massive intellect is involved.

I didn’t like him immediately, but there’s no denying that I was impressed.

(I still am, really. Dude’s brain is filled with so much trivia I don’t know how he fits anything else in there.)

Fast forward ten years, and we’re still friends.

In a way, it’s kind of surprising.

Jason is infuriating.

He never knows when to shut up.

He can turn a casual conversation into a raging argument in the blink of an eye.

He is all-around inflammatory.

 A decade in and he’s still unrelenting, brash, loud, and still a bit of a blowhard.

You know, what, though?

This friendship makes perfect sense.

I realized recently that many of my funniest memories begin with the words “that one time, my friend Jason and I…”

Quick digression — a brief list of my favorite memories involving this guy:

  • Got buzzed hours before a birthday party we were supposed to attend; drove halfway to his house (he lives way out in the sticks) instead of the venue before we realized the mistake.
  • Then when we got to the venue, he started hitting on all the college girls (we were a year or two out of college, I think). I was the world’s shittiest wingman. I did nothing but grin at people.
  • I fell asleep after a beer drinking contest and woke up to him shaking my leg. Long story short, he woke me so he could sing and dance “Yeah Yeah Bonel” to a captive audience (aka Me).
  • Got smashed on cheap tequila while in Tagaytay. We were chatting on the balcony and I was trying my fucking hardest not to vomit my guts out. Every time I turned to face him I would get woozy, so I said, “Jason, nasusuka ako pag tinitignan kita (Jason, looking at you makes me nauseous).”
  • Went drinking in Tomas Morato (macho mug, hells yeah) and afterwards we decided to go to Manila Bay so “he could visit his merpeople”. (I don’t know if this is still true, but at that time he was convinced he was a merman.) Fucker let my drunk ass sleep on the sea wall. I could have fallen into the water, asshole.

(I realize that all of these stories are drunken shenanigans, but the truth is that I’m so boring and regular that I don’t really get into shenanigans unless I’m smashed. Also, they’re not really very good shenanigans, are they?)

There is no one out there who makes me laugh louder than this bastard.

He has zero boundaries, no concept of propriety, and a tongue that fears nothing. I want to hate him sometimes, but you can’t really hate someone who makes you laugh non-stop every time you meet.

He gets me to play hooky when I’m trying to be a responsible adult.

He makes me laugh over the stupidest shit.

He traps me into these long-winded, senseless arguments that leave me angry/amused.

It’s all seemingly contradictory.

Here’s a guy I logically shouldn’t like because he’s the opposite of nearly everything I am, but I cannot imagine myself not being friends with him.

So here’s to my favorite bastard, my trusty drinking buddy, my fucking awesome friend.

Happy birthday.